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Petronas asked to clear its record over past atrocities in Unity state

Author: Staff Writer | Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A young man, war victim, wounded by bullets during the war around Rier area in former Western Upper Nile now Unity State, May 2002 - Credit | Sven Torfinn

Petronas has been asked to clear its record after a report alleged that it partly sponsored atrocities and crimes committed against civilians in Unity State, a Swedish human rights organization has said.

According to the report, the conflict has left at least 12,000 people dead between 1999 and 2003.

Petronas is currently operating in Block 7 and 3 in Paloch oil fields in Upper Nile state.

They also operate in Block 1 and 3 oil fields in Unity state.

20 years ago, churches in Southern Sudan by then asked Sweden to hold accountable its oil exploration company that was formerly involved in sponsoring war crimes committed by the then Sudan government.

The crimes include bombing of civilians, murder, disfiguration, abduction and use of child soldiers, and destruction of livelihoods.

Last month, the Chairman and the then CEO of Lundin Energy, a Swedish based oil and gas exploration and production company formerly known as Lundin Oil, were informed that they were the suspects of the investigation.

They include Chairman Ian H. Lundin, and then CEO Alex Schneiter.

Lundin Energy was the operator of a consortium of companies exploring Block 5A located in Unity state.

These comprised Malaysia’s Petronas Carigali Overseas, OMV-Sudan Exploration GmbH of Austria, and the Sudanese state-owned oil company Sudapet Ltd.

In 2010, the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan released a report alleging that Lundin Oil and three other oil companies helped exacerbate the war in Southern Sudan by signing an oil exploration deal with the Sudanese government for an area the regime did not fully control.

That led the Swedish prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the company six years later.

In 1999, the subsidiary oil firm wanted to start exploration in an area a few kilometers south of Bentiu.

But they encouraged the government to take control of Block 5A for their security.

This violated a local peace deal that gave the area to SPLA, and triggered a heavy fighting that killed about 12,000 civilians and displaced nearly 200,000 others, according to observers.

Speaking exclusively to Eye Radio on Monday, Egbert Wesselink, a visiting Senior Advisor of PAX for peace says there are only two aisian state owned oil companies cited in the report.

“It’s mostly only Asian state owned oil companies, like CPC and Petronas, those are the two main ones. They will not be so easily held liable because their governments, China and Malaysia don’t have universal jurisdiction, Egbert told Eye Radio in Juba on Monday.

“They can’t be brought to justice in their own countries for what they did outside, but I think they should, I only don’t know how to do that.”

The Senior Advisor of PAX for Peace points out that it’s time for Petronas to clear its name over the past crimes committed against people of Unity state.

“It is important that the Malaysian government and the Malaysian people realize what happened in Sweden, and realize that Petronas has made very painful mistakes here in South Sudan,” Egbert said.

“Already, there is a victims group here in South Sudan. These victims’ voices already published a claim but also requested Petronas to look into its future and clean up its legacy and to reconcile with the victims.”

Petronas is yet to respond to this statement.

According to PAX for Peace, the first hearing against the two Swedish nationals will take place in August next year.

Once found guilty, the two suspects, Ian Lundin and Alex Schneiter may face up to life imprisonment.

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